State Girls Basketball: Comeback Cardinals fall one rally short in quarterfinals

By PATRICK SLACK
Sports Editor
patrick.slack@mcrecord.com

Bethlehem Academy junior Jessie Matthews, left, battles with Upsala eighth-grader Katlin Welinski, top, and sophomore Brooke Westrich (2) for a loose ball during the second half of Thursday's Class A state quarterfinals at Williams Arena.

Bethlehem Academy junior Jessie Matthews, left, battles with Upsala eighth-grader Katlin Welinski, top, and sophomore Brooke Westrich (2) for a loose ball during the second half of Thursday’s Class A state quarterfinals at Williams Arena.

Junior Kaelin Smieja kept Upsala in the game with a record-tying rampage from three-point range.

But the size of Bethlehem Academy, as well as a 13-0 run to open the second half, led to a 66-51 defeat in Thursday’s Class A state quarterfinals at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.

Both teams started slowly from the field, with Bethlehem creeping ahead 14-7 midway through the first half, before Upsala heated up and used a 10-1 run to take its first lead just two minutes later.

The teams traded the lead back and forth until Bethlehem pulled ahead at 30-28 with a basket six seconds before halftime.

Upsala junior Kaelin Smieja, left, drives along the baseline during Thursday's Class A state quarterfinals. Smieja tied a state tournament record by sinking seven three-point shots, finishing with 23 points.

Upsala junior Kaelin Smieja, left, drives along the baseline during Thursday’s Class A state quarterfinals. Smieja tied a state tournament record by sinking seven three-point shots, finishing with 23 points.

Bethlehem continued its surge coming out of the locker room, going ahead 43-28 with 13:50 to play.

Senior Aimee Pelzer finally stopped the run with a three-point shot to make it 43-31, but Upsala would go nearly six minutes without scoring again, by which time Bethlehem had worked its advantage to 51-31.

Smieja resumed her torrid pace, nearly singlehandedly getting Upsala back into the game with its next nine points on a trio of three-pointers.

One free throw from sophomore Brooke Westrich and a pair made by senior Tracy Herzog brought the deficit to 10 at 53-43 with five minutes remaining, but Upsala couldn’t get the deficit back into single digits.

Smieja finished 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, matching the previous mark for threes made before fouling out with 23 points.

Pelzer added four three-point shots made as she recorded 16 points and seven rebounds.

Upsala senior Aimee Pelzer spots up for a three during the first half of Thursday's Class A state quarterfinals. Pelzer capped her standout career with 16 points and seven assists.

Upsala senior Aimee Pelzer spots up for a three during the first half of Thursday’s Class A state quarterfinals. Pelzer capped her standout career with 16 points and seven assists.

Bethlehem took advantage of a significant size advantage and two quick fouls called on Herzog to assert itself in the paint from the outset, outscoring Upsala 36-6 in the paint and earning a 39-27 rebound advantage.

That edge also translated to the line, where Upsala got whistled for 22 fouls compared to only six for Bethlehem, with Bethlehem scoring 21 of its points off of free throws.

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